Joshua Tree Vacation Rentals

Moonlight Mesa Retreats 760-401-3289 cell/text

2 bedroom/ 1 bath  •  hot tub  •  5 acres

3 bedroom/ 2 bath  •  hot tub  •  5 acres

2 bedroom/ 2 bath  •  pool  •  hot tub

Trusted Locally Owned and Operated business since 2007

By listening to our past guests, we know that most of you are coming here to spend time with friends and loved one(s) so we have thoughtfully created spaces for enjoying time together - comfortable seating to share long nights, fully stocked kitchens for sharing meals, fire pits to gather around, games to entertain, and a long list of things to do in the area, so that you may explore the desert (see our “JT Places” tab above).


All of our homes are located in the town of Joshua Tree just minutes away from Joshua Tree National Park and are professionally maintained on a regular basis. Our guests are guaranteed a personal, unique, and intimate experience. Most importantly, if there are any emergencies, we are just minutes away to help.  Our reviews posted here are from previous guests, please feel free to read them and ask questions. Thank you for considering Moonlight Mesa Retreats!

We are proud supporters and volunteers of our local Mojave Desert Land Trust! The Mojave Desert is home to many rare plants and magnificent animals- a place of scenic wonder and tremendous biological diversity. Please read more about this amazing non-profit organization here.

The Mojave Desert Land Trust

About Us:


This is our independently owned and operated business. Christa answers all of the e-mails and calls, while Mark maintains the website and handles the maintenance of the properties. This is our livelihood and we love what we do - creating beautiful spaces for our guests to experience a relaxing getaway. By supporting us, you are supporting a small homegrown business and which in turn supports other local businesses. It’s the philosophy this community is built on and one of the many reasons we love Joshua Tree for more than its inspiring park. If you wish to journey here on your next vacation, we welcome you. For those of you who keep coming back, we welcome you home!


"All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware" ~Martin Buber

Located in Southern California’s Mojave/Colorado deserts, Joshua Tree National Park welcomes over a million visitors every year. The park offers rock climbing, hiking, sight seeing, biking, camping, bird watching, star gazing, and exploring. This amazing park looks simple at first glance but its surreal geologic features will have a lasting impression.


The park encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in our California's deserts. Joshua Tree National Park marks the point where two large desert ecosystems come together. Below 3,000 feet, the Colorado Desert encompasses the eastern part of the park and features beautiful cacti, wild flowers and palm trees. The higher, moister, and slightly cooler Mojave Desert is the special habitat of the ancient Joshua Tree.


Joshua Tree National Park provides space for finding freedom from our everyday routines, for self- discovery, as well as a refuge for the human spirit. Joshua Tree is the gateway community to the West Entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, an 800,000 acre wilderness preserve with groves of Joshua Trees, incredible multi-colored, granite boulders and some of the best rock climbing in the world.

Rock Climbing:


Rock Climbing is a sport that people from all age groups can enjoy (we climb with our nieces and nephews ages 5 to 18 and our 4 year old son!) and I have heard countless stories from people who have used climbing to overcome addictions, build self confidence, get in shape and be in touch with nature. Most people who climb feel the natural “high” that can be addicting, so prepare yourself!


If you have never rock climbed before, we highly suggest going with a professional guide to teach you the basics. You can do this in a group or one-on-one with the instructor.  The Rio House is full of many rock climbing books as well as climbing pictures to inspire those who love the sport or are thinking of trying it!




Hiking in the desert can make you feel worlds away from city life. With the wide open space and prehistoric looking geography you can’t help but experience a sense of wonder for this amazing place. There are so many places to explore from old mining camps, historic homes built into the rocks, hidden oasis where native people once settled, view points where you can see in every direction and so much more.  Joshua Tree hiking books are in each of our homes for your use and we are happy to recommend our favorite hikes to you.


Star Gazing:


Anyone who has been to the desert knows why  we brag about our desert night skies. There is nothing like lying in a hammock under a massive spread of stars blanketing the sky - the constellations and Milky Way are clearly visible and amazing to behold!.  According to the BBC, 99% of the continental United States  (and two thirds of the world's population) never see a truly dark, starry sky. The Mojave Desert is one of the last places left in the United States where you can still see the Milky Way with the naked eye. All of our rentals include plenty of outdoor seating and lounging for enjoying the  night sky.




Photography in the Mojave Desert is inspiring. The light is always shifting and playing against the landscape in ways you don’t see in other places. The beauty of dawn on an ancient Joshua Tree or the shadows playing on the decaying wood of a homestead cabin make photography in Joshua Tree something everyone can appreciate.




Joshua Tree’s resident bird species: roadrunner, phainopepla, mockingbird, verdin, cactus wren, rock wren, mourning dove, Le Conte’s thrasher, and Gambel’s quail can be sighted in and around the park throughout the year. We hear lovely stories from our guests about the number of birds who visit the backyards of all of our homes.




Wildflower season is our most popular time of the year here in the desert. Book early because our homes fill up fast! The extent and timing of spring wildflower blooms in Joshua Tree National Park may vary from one year to the next. When you catch any part of the bloom, it is spectacular!




Bikes and four-wheel drive vehicles are welcome in the park. For your own safety and for the protection of the natural features of this park, please stay on established roads.

Joshua Tree’s nearly 800,000 acres were set aside to protect the unique assembly of natural resources brought together by the junction of three of California’s ecosystems. The Colorado Desert (below 3,000 feet) occupies the southern and eastern parts of the park. It is characterized by creosote bush, ocotillo plants and cholla cactus. The southern boundary of the Mojave Desert reaches across the northern part of the park. It is the habitat of the ancient Joshua Trees. Extensive stands of this peculiar looking plant are found in this area. Joshua Tree’s third ecosystem is located in the western most part of the park above 4,000 feet. The Little San Bernardino Mountains provide habitat for a community of California juniper and pinyon pine. There are also five fan palm oasis througout the park, indicating those few areas where water occurs naturally at or near the surface, meeting the special life requirements of those stately trees.


The plant diversity of these ecosystems is matched by the animal diversity. It is host to a wide variety of animals including big horn sheep, bobcat, mountain lion, rabbits, desert tortoise, snakes, and lizards to name a few. Joshua Tree National Park also lies astride the Pacific flyway of migratory birds, and is a rest stop for many. It was for this unusual diversity of plants and animals that Joshua Tree National Monument was set aside on August 10, 1936.


The park also encompasses some of the most interesting geologic displays found in California’s desert areas. Exposed granite monoliths, twisted rock and rugged canyons testify to the tectonic and erosional forces that shaped this land. Washes, playas, arroyos, alluvial fans, pediments, gneiss, bajadas, desert varnish, igneous and metamorphic rocks interact to form a pattern of stark beauty and ever changing complexity.


As old as the desert may look, it is but a temporary phenomenon in the incomprehensible time-scale of geology. Humans have occupied the area encompassed by Joshua Tree National Park’s nearly 800,000 acres for at least 5,000 years. In more verdant times, one of the Southwest’s earliest inhabitants, members of the Pinto Culture (followed by the Serrano, the Chemhuevi and the Cahuilla), lived, hunted and gathered here along a slow moving river that ran through the now dry Pinto Basin. Later, Indians traveled through this area in tune with harvests of pinyon nuts, mesquite beans, acorns, and cactus fruit, leaving behind rock paintings and pottery ollas as reminders of their passing. The park now protects 501 archeological sites, 88 historic structures, 19 cultural landscapes and houses 123,253 items in its museum collection.


In the 1800s explorers, cattlemen, and miners came to the desert. They built dams to create water holdings and dug tunnels in search for gold. They are gone now, and left behind are their remnants, the Lost Horse and Desert Queen mines and the Desert Queen Ranch. Homesteaders began filing claims in the 1900s seeking free land and the chance to start new lives. Today Joshua Tree National Park welcomes over 1.5 million visitors every year seeking clear skies, clean air, peace and tranquility, and a beauty that only the desert can offer.


For all its harshness, the desert is a land of extreme fragility. When viewed from the roadside, the desert only hints at its hidden life. Take your time while touring the park. Walk lightly on the earth and notice a tiny flower bud, the moss on the shady belly of a massive boulder, or a lizard sunbathing on a warm surface. The desert is a place of beauty and vitality; it provides space for self-discovery, and can be a refuge for the human spirit.


Joshua Tree’s resident bird species, such as roadrunner, phainopepla, mockingbird, verdin, cactus wren, rock wren, mourning dove, Le Conte’s thrasher, and Gambel’s quail can be sighted in the park throughout the year. The park’s winter migrants: white-crowned sparrow, dark-eyed junco, sage sparrow, cedar waxwing, American robin, and hermit thrush can be viewed in the park into March. Spring and summer species includes summer nesting species such as Bendire’s thrasher, ash-throated flycatcher, western kingbird, Scott’s oriole, northern oriole, and western bluebird.


A brightly colored bunch of transient warblers: Wilson’s, black-throated gray, Nashville, Mac Gillivray’s, yellow, yellow-rumped (a species also here in winter), and orange-crowned are among the species that just pass through the park. Other transients are black-headed grosbeaks, western tanagers, indigo buntings, and lazuli buntings. In addition to these smaller migrants, the park hosts a migration of birds of prey: sharp-shinned hawk, rough-legged hawk, northern harrier, osprey and Swainson’s hawk. There are several resident hawks as well: red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, Cooper’s hawk, and prairie falcon.


If you are lucky, you may see the occasional groups of 200 or more turkey vultures spending the night in the trees at the oasis of Mara during their spring migration. An occasional shore bird also finds its way into Joshua Tree during spring. Do not be too surprised if you see a black-necked stilt or an eared grebe standing on a park road. Grebes have their feet placed so far to the back of their bodies they cannot make a running takeoff on land-once grounded, they are stranded. Please report any sightings to park personnel so the stranded bird can be transported safely to a water site.


Fan palm oasis, and water impoundments are good places to search for birds. Even “lakes” that are dry, such as Barker Dam, offer forage vegetation for birds. The Oasis of Mara, including the 29 Palms Inn at the west end, is a good bird viewing area. Cottonwood Spring has both cottonwood trees and fan palms to provide vegetation and shelter for a number of birds and can be a wonderful place to spot birds in the park. Lost Palms Oasis, 49 Palms Oasis, and the riparian habitat associated with Smith Water Canyon require more extensive hiking but provide good birding as well.


Wild Flowers:


The extent and timing of spring wildflower blooms in Joshua Tree National Park may vary from one year to the next. Fall and winter precipitation and spring temperatures are key environmental factors affecting the spring blooming period. Wildflowers may begin blooming in the lower elevations in February and at higher elevations in March and April. Normally desert annuals germinate between September and December. Many need a good soaking rain to get started.


In addition to rains at the right time, plants also require warm enough temperatures before flower stalks will be produced. Green leaf rosettes may cover the ground in January; however, flower stalks wait until temperatures rise. Desert regions above 5,000 feet may have plants blooming as late as June.




Bikes and four-wheeled drive vehicles are welcome in the park. For your own safety and for the protection of the natural features of this park, please stay on established roads. Tire tracks on the open desert can last for years and will spoil the wilderness experience of future hikers; there are also many unseen animal burrows that can be destroyed when riding off road.


The park's new Backcountry and Wilderness Management Plan designates approximately 29 miles of trails for non-motorized bike use. Part of the California Riding and Hiking Trail is now open to biking. The seven-mile section located between the North Entrance and Pinto Basin Road traverses a sandy wash much of the way, but includes a short, rather fun, section of compacted trail. If you start at Pinto Basin Road and travel north, it will be a downhill ride and somewhat easier.


Suggested biking roads:


Black Eagle Mine

9.0 / 14.5


Begin 6.5 miles (10.5 km) north of Cottonwood Visitor Center. This dead-end dirt road runs along the edge of Pinto Basin, crosses several dry washes and winds through canyons in the Eagle Mountains. After the 9.0 miles, you then enter Bureau of Land Management land.


Covington Flats

3.8 / 6.2 (one way)


From Covington Flats picnic area to Eureka Peak. You may view some of the park's Joshua trees, junipers, pinyon pines and lush vegetation on this road. The dirt road is steep near the end, but the top offers views of Palm Springs, the surrounding mountains, and the Morongo Basin. Your trip will be 6.5 miles (10.5 km) longer if you ride or drive over to the backcountry board.


Geology Tour

18.0 / 29.2


Self guiding driving tour along a dirt road winds through some of the park's most fascinating rock formations. Four-wheeled drive vehicles are recommended.


Old Dale

23.0 / 37.3


Begin 6.5 miles (10.5 km) north of Cottonwood Visitor Center. In the first 11 miles (17.8) you will cross Pinto Basin, a flat sandy dry lake bed. Leaving the basin, the road climbs a steep hill then crosses the park boundary. A number of side roads veer off toward old mines and residences. The main road leads to Hwy 62, 15.0 miles (24.3) east of Twentynine Palms.


Pinkham Canyon

20.0 / 32.4


This is a challenging route beginning at Cottonwood Visitor Center and then travels along Smoke Tree wash, later cutting through Pinkham Canyon. Sections of the road run through soft sand and rocky flood plains. This route connects to a service road next to I-10.


Queen Tour

11.4 / 18.6


The road turns south from the paved road 2.0 miles (3.2 km) west of Jumbo Rocks Campground. The distance from the junction to Squaw Tank is 5.4 miles (8.8 km). This section is mostly downhill but bumpy and sandy. Starting at Squaw Tank a circular route explores Pleasant Valley.


Suggested Hiking:


Boy Scout Trail:

8 Miles  1340ft Elevation


Starting in the north by the ranger station on the road to Indian Cove, the sometimes sandy Boy Scout Trail crosses open desert slopes dotted with cholla cacti and creosote bushes then follows a narrow canyon into the Wonderland of Rocks. Several miles of the path run right through the scenic boulders and cliffs, before it enters open country once more though now filled with Joshua trees, before ending at the southern trailhead along the main park road. A car shuttle would be useful here.


California Riding and Hiking

36 Miles


One of many unconnected sections of the California Riding and Hiking Trail crosses the western half of Joshua Tree National Park, running from the Black Rock Canyon campground through mountainous terrain to Upper Covington Flat, then down into the Joshua trees and creosote bushes of Lost Horse Valley where the path crosses the road to Keys View. It next skirts Ryan Mountain, the Jumbo Rocks campground and Belle campground, ending with a descent past the edge of the Pinto Mountains alongside the main park drive to the northern entrance station. Various rewarding day-hikes are possible over sections of the path, or a several night backpacking trip along the whole length.


Fortynine Palms Oasis

1.6 Miles 300ft Elevation


This relatively easy and quite popular path climbs to the top of a barren ridge overlooking the town of Twentynine Palms then drops down to a sizeable group of California fan palms, growing at the junction of two rocky canyons.


Lost Horse

2 Miles 480ft Elevation


On the road to Keys View, a side track branches westwards ending after a mile at a small parking area at the edge of 5,178 foot Lost Horse Mountain, from where a trail (also once a vehicle track) ascends to the summit, en route passing several restored buildings from the Lost Horse Mine. One of these, the old ten-stamp mill, is particularly well preserved. Past the mine, a less used, unmaintained path continues along the mountain ridgetop for a while then descends a ravine and loops back to the start - total length 4 miles.


Lost Palms Oasis

4 450ft Elevation


Perhaps the best day hike in Joshua Tree National Park, the route to the fan palm trees and pools at Lost Palms Oasis encounters rocky ridges, sandy washes, many Sonoran desert cacti and granite boulders, with frequent impressive views over the surrounding mountains. The trailhead is close to the southern entrance to the park, at Cottonwood Spring.


Mastodon Peak

3  Mile (Loop) 300ft Elevation


Forming a loop with the first part of the Lost Palms Oasis Trail past Cottonwood Spring, this path crosses a mixture of rocky slopes and dry sandy washes, reaching a highpoint at Mastodon Peak, near which is the remains of an old gold mine. The summit affords long distance views in all directions, especially south where the Salton Sea is clearly visible, 20 miles away.


Ryan Mountain

4 Miles 1,060ft Elevation


Ryan Mountain is a somewhat isolated yet easily reached peak surrounded by open plains so the views from its summit are some of the best in the park. The well used path to the top begins at a parking area along the main road, a mile west of the turn-off for the Sheep Pass group campground, and climbs steadily up the slopes, passing scattered vegetation of Joshua trees at first then pinyon/juniper pine at higher elevations.



6 Miles (loop) 1,070ft Elevation


The Panorama Trail affords wide ranging views of the Little San Bernadino Mountains, passing Joshua trees at the start (near the Black Rock Canyon campground), then pinyon/juniper pine at higher elevations. Several side trails branch off, including a short spur to 5,103 foot Warren Peak.


Queen Mountain

2  Miles 1,100ft Elevation


From the end of a side road across Queen Valley, a little-used trail climbs the steep southern slope of Queen Mountain, ending at an elevated viewpoint near the summit - one of the highest peaks in the park.


Fortynine Palms Oasis

1.6 Miles  300ft Elevation


This relatively easy and quite popular path climbs to the top of a barren ridge overlooking the town of Twentynine Palms then drops down to a sizeable group of California fan palms, growing at the junction of two rocky canyons.

Cap Rock 0.4 (loop) level

The paved, level Cap Rock nature trail winds past Joshua trees through piles of large, rounded monzonite boulders in the middle of Lost Horse Valley. The trailhead is along the main road by the junction with the side road south to Keys View.


Rattlesnake Canyon

1.2 Miles 400ft Elevation


A faint path enters the lower end of Rattlesnake Canyon, near the Indian Cove campground, and follows the narrow drainage into the north section of the Wonderland of Rocks, offering a quick introduction to this scenic area.


Hidden Valley

1 Mile (loop)


Hidden Valley is a small open area enclosed on most sides by tall boulder piles; the short path to the center begins at the end of the side road to the Hidden Valley picnic area.


Indian Cove

0.6 Mile (loop)


Starting at the west edge of the Indian Cove campground, this well marked path encounters large boulders, dry washes and a variety of Mojave desert plants.

Victory Palms 5 850 Victory Palms and nearby Munsen Canyon are two rarely-visited fan palm oases east of the maintained trail to Lost Palms Oasis, reached by heading down canyon after the end of the main path; the ravine becomes quite rough and narrow, and travel requires scrambling over boulders in places during a quite steep descent. The palms grow near sandy ground as the drainage becomes wider and more level. A side trip northwards leads to the even more remote oasis in Munsen Canyon.


Willow Hole

3.5 Miles


Level overall The main path into the heart of the Wonderland of Rocks begins 1.5 miles along the south section of the maintained Boy Scout Trail, crosses open Joshua tree flats then enters the rocks, tracking along narrow, sandy washes as the surrounding boulders become ever larger and more impressive. Easy travel ends at Willow Hole, a transient water source in a hollow beneath a willow tree.


Wonderland Wash

1 Mile  level ground


Starting at the same trailhead for Barker Dam, a well trodden path heads a little further north then follows a wide, sandy wash into the south edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. There are limitless opportunities for off trail exploration, both for regular hiking and rock climbing.


Arch Rock

0.5 Mile (loop) level  ground


From the White Tank campground (near site 9), this easy path leads to a small natural arch in the whitish granite rocks that are abundant in this section of the park.


Barker Dam

1.2  Mile (loop)


Built by cattle ranchers at the end of the nineteenth century, Barker Dam is a small construction that in wet times holds back a pool in the granite boulders just inside the south edge of the Wonderland of Rocks. The loop hike past the pool also encounters plenty of Joshua trees, and a petroglyph panel (defaced by a film crew); it starts from a side road near the Hidden Valley campground.


Fortynine Palms Oasis

1.6 Miles  300 Elevation


This relatively easy and quite popular path climbs to the top of a barren ridge overlooking the town of Twentynine Palms then drops down to a sizeable group of California fan palms, growing at the junction of two rocky canyons.


Cap Rock

0.4 Mile  (loop) level ground


The paved, level Cap Rock nature trail winds past Joshua trees through piles of large, rounded monzonite boulders in the middle of Lost Horse Valley. The trailhead is along the main road by the junction with the side road south to Keys View.


Cholla Cactus Garden

0.25 Mile  (loop) level ground


On the west side of Pinto Basin, the short Cholla Cactus Garden nature trail provides a close-up look at the densely-spined Opuntia Bigelovii (Teddy Bear Cholla), which in spring bears large, greenish white flowers.


Hidden Valley

1 (loop)


Hidden Valley is a small open area enclosed on most sides by tall boulder piles; the short path to the center begins at the end of the side road to the Hidden Valley picnic area.


Indian Cove

0.6 (loop)


Starting at the west edge of the Indian Cove campground, this well marked path encounters large boulders, dry washes and a variety of Mojave desert plants.

Keys View 0.2 (loop)  At the end of the paved Keys View Road, a path climbs to the top of a small peak just to the south for a 360 degree panorama over the Little San Bernadino Mountains, and many places to the south. A longer path (half a mile) heads north from the parking area up to an even better viewpoint, on the top of a summit at 5,558 feet.


Oasis of Mara

1.5 (loop) level


At the main Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms, a paved path reaches the most accessible of Joshua Tree's six California fan palm oases, though also the least natural, as the surroundings are relatively well developed.


Skull Rock

1.5 (loop) level


This popular loop trail circles the large boulders either side of the Jumbo Rocks campground, including the distinctively-shaped Skull Rock (which can also be viewed from the main road). Interpretive signs along the way describe the plants and animals of the Mojave Desert.

Vacation rentals are an excellent alternative to small hotels which have limited amenities and minimal privacy. Vacation rental is a term in the travel industry meaning renting out a furnished apartment or house on a temporary basis to tourists as an alternative to a hotel or other mainstream lodging. Rental home rates start as low as $165 to $250 per home, per night. Travelers can find great deals and great amenities with vacation rentals, from New York to Joshua Tree.


Businesses like Moonlight Mesa Retreats contract with property owners to manage their properties and can manage numerous vacation homes within a region. With having a professional business managing the vacation rentals/lodgings, you are assured quality service on your vacation or holiday.


Our Southern California vacation rentals range from rustic cabins to spacious modern homes, located in close proximity to hiking areas, rock climbing, and the village. We are confident you will find the vacation home rental to make your trip both memorable and affordable. One family, on a recent trip, decided to do some bonding by hiking to the top of Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park located just minutes from any one of our vacation rentals. Visitors routinely choose Joshua Tree for the absence of glitz and glamour and the preponderance of tranquility.


Take your next vacation without spending a penny more than you have to on lodging. Professionally managed vacation home rentals are becoming one of North America's fastest-growing lodging categories. Many vacation rentals offer more space (multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, separate living areas), more amenities (fully equipped kitchens, fireplaces, private hot tubs), convenient locations (on the beach, ski-in/ski-out, in rural settings with no neighbors) and greater privacy than a hotel. Families and groups, in particular, are attracted to vacation rentals for the privacy, flexibility, and comfort they provide. By renting a house, it becomes as little as $60 per person and you get so many benefits that come with this price tag. Thinking of a vacation, come to Joshua Tree and experience the Mojave Desert and the Joshua Tree National Park and enjoy lodging at Moonlight Mesa Retreats.


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